Home ➤ Content ➤ Western European motorhoming country guides
Western European motorhoming country guides
Belgium is a country of two halves, two identities and two distinct topographies. The northern half of the country is known as Flanders, Flemish is spoken, and there is strong Dutch influence. Flanders has the countries quota of coastline (65km) otherwise the landscape is flat and cycle lanes go everywhere. The dividing line cuts across Belgium south of Brussels. The south, known as Wallonia, has forested hills and small villages that would not look out of place in France. French is widely spoken and the French influence is obvious.
Belgium’s key attractions are Bruges (Brugge), Beer and Belgian chocolate. The good news is that Bruges has plenty of beer and chocolate. The even better news is, Belgium beer is as good as it gets. There is a mindboggling display of chocolate at Praline Paleis chocolate shop located just over the French Belgian border towards Poperinge, N50°49.168’ E002°40.692’. This excellent shop is adjacent to the main road and has parking outside. Not only is this shop conveniently located the owners speak English. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sunday 10am to 12 noon. Visit www.pralinepaleis.be
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Belgium (free wild camping)
Belgium is a one hour drive from Calais making it a great place to visit for a long weekend and there are 800 campsites to choose from if you simply want to relax. 250 Wallonian campsites are listed on www.campingbelgique.be Belgium has approximately 50 Motorhome Stopovers mostly conveniently located in towns. Only one third has Service Points and most with facilities charge, either just for using the Service Point or for the parking. Coastal Motorhome Stopovers are popular, whereas inland they are quiet and often underused. All the Aires Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg details Aires in Belgium and is available from www.vicarious-shop.com, Tel: 0131 208 3333. Offsite-Parking is tolerated in Wallonia except along the coast and in forests otherwise there are countless suitable car parks. Offsite overnight parking is not permitted anywhere in Flanders.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Belgium
Belgium has cheaper fuel than France, Germany and The Netherlands and there are no road tolls. Belgium famously illuminated the entire motorway network, but to save energy these lights are being switched off and removed. Perhaps these savings have been spent improving the main roads and motorways because they have greatly improved. Previously they were often diabolical but the domestic roads are often still uneven resulting in slow driving speeds.
Cyclists are more common than streetlights in the northern half of the country and two-wheeled road users always claim priority, even when they don’t have it, so expect them to pull out on you. Drivers of four wheeled vehicles are little better, best described as selfish. ‘Priority to the Right’ is often expected even when it does not exist. Expect vehicles to enter roundabouts at great speed even if there is insufficient space to do so safely. Traffic congestion around Antwerp and Brussels can add hours to a journey and the lack of motorhome facilities at these towns reinforces the point that they should be avoided.
Andorra is a small principality located high in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. Tens of thousands of skiers visit the tiny principality during winter. During the summer, the mountains are popular with walkers and mountain bikers. Andorra is not part of the EU, but has a special relationship, and has adopted a lot of EU legislation. The euro is the official currency and your euro can go up in smoke if you buy the cheap locally grown tobacco. Andorra has two border posts, one with France, and one with Spain, both are open 24/7. Goods purchased in Andorra, for example tobacco, are classed as being imported into the EU (France and Spain), so check the limits at the border when you enter. At the time of writing, the tobacco allowance was 300 cigarettes or 400g of tobacco or 150 cigars under 3g each or 75 cigars over 3g each.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Andorra (free wild camping)
Andorra has 11 campsites and camping areas, some are open all year. The campsites located near the main tourist resorts are busy and expensive. There are no Motorhome Stopovers in Andorra and Offsite-Parking is prohibited. Motorhomers often park overnight in the car parks on the French or Spanish borders and simply visit for the day.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Andorra
The main route through Andorra takes you along a tight and congested valley. You can avoid the steep and twisty roads by paying to use the tunnels. Andorra la Vella, the only town, has no allocated motorhome parking and the officious traffic wardens will direct you to the campsite, even if you want to park for an hour. To avoid this park where you see other motorhomes parked. Road information is available at www.mobilitat.ad Fuel in Andorra is approximately €0.10 per litre less than in Spain and €0.20 less than in France. LPG autogas is not available in Andorra.
Denmark is the smallest and most southerly of the four Scandinavian countries. There are numerous small islands to explore as well as the three main parts. Jutland borders Germany and has the best sandy beaches in Denmark. They are large and when the tide is out day parking is allowed. Follow the E20 East and you will drive over the 1km long bridge that connects Jutland to Funen island. Keep heading east on the E20 and you drive over the 17km bridge to Zealand island, home to the capital city Copenhagen which must be the best capital in Europe to cycle around. Denmark is a great cycling country because there are few hills and the pretty countryside is crisscrossed by quiet country lanes. So get on your bike and use some of the many cycle routes to get around.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Denmark (free wild camping)
Denmark has over 500 campsites and 190 offer ‘Quick Stop’ camping at a reduced rate if you arrive 8pm and depart before 10am. 109 campsites are open all year. See www.dk-camp.dk for more information. Receptionists will ask you for a Camping Card International or a Camping Card Scandinavia, which can be purchased at Danish campsites. Naturist campsites are detailed on www.dansknaturistunion.dk Danish Motorhome Stopovers are predominantly located at farms or gardens and have a similar feel to the Certified Locations/Sites in the UK. Some marinas offer overnight motorhome parking and some motorway service areas have motorhome Service Points. The Danish motorhome club (DACF) produces Nordic Camperthis is the most comprehensive Scandinavian Motorhome Stopovers guidebook available. Vicarious Media stocks the guidebook and there is an online version. Danish authorities tolerate Offsite-Parking but it is not encouraged. Many of the car parks at popular attractions have “no motor home overnight” signs or time limit signs.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Denmark
The roads and landscape of Denmark is similar to the United Kingdom. Obtain the fold out map titled ‘Denmark Tourist Information’ from the Danish tourist office. The map details driving tours and the brochure ‘Camping and Caravanning in Denmark’ lists campsites. Tolls are charged on the bridges between the islands. Øresund Bridge, motorhomes or campervans up to 6m are charged at car rate (€20) and motorhomes longer than 6m or heaver than 3,500kg are charged twice as much. Storebealt toll charges are based on height and length, including tow-bars, projecting loads, and trailers. Motorhomes up to 6m - max 3,500kg = €31, over 6m - max 3,500kg = €47, over 3,500 kg - under 10m = €92 and over 3,500 kg - over 10m = €146. Visit www.storebaelt.dk and www.oresundsbron.com Most fuel stations have automatic machines that only take cash, notes up to 200DKK can be used, but no change is given. Prices can vary by 10 per cent from station to station. LPG is not widely available. Search ‘LPG’ on www.visitdenmark.com for a list of 6 fuel stations selling LPG and http://www.eof.dk lists six Unox LPG outlets.
The Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are a self governing region within the Kingdom of Denmark. Their relationship is similar to those the United Kingdom has with the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The Faroe Islands are not part of the EU despite being located between the Shetland Islands and Iceland. There are 16 campsites on the Islands, some can only take tents. There are no Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking is banned, The Faroe Island Tourist Guide states ‘...it is not permitted to stay overnight in your camping cars [motorhomes] along the road, at rest stops, lay-bys or view areas.’ Tourist Information is available at www.faroeislands.com and www.visitfaroeislands.com
Finland is often overlooked by motorhomes on the Scandinavian tour. Southern and central Finland is bejewelled with natural lakes that are ideal for swimming, fishing and boating. The further north you travel the more the wilderness dominates, this is especially true along the Russian Border and above the Arctic Circle. Finland employs border guards to maintain the Schengen zone along the Russian border. You may come across patrols when you drive, cycle, or walk close to the border and they will politely ask you for your identification. For more information visit www.raja.fi or pick up ‘The Border Guard’ leaflet from a tourist office.
Santa Clause is real! If you do not believe us, you can meet him in person at Santa’s grotto, which straddles the E75 7km north of Rovaniemi. Santa is available for a free consultation all year round and you can impress your mates by sending them a postcard stamped in Santa’s own post office. Further information www.santaclausvillage.info
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water and that is one thing Finland has a lot off. Consequently mosquitoes will accompany you as you travel and boy do they have an attitude problem. They do not carry disease but it takes strong repellent and head nets to keep them at bay. When you accept that this is part of the experience you will be able to make the most of this diverse country.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Finland (free wild camping)
Finland has approximately 300 campsites. 150 campsites are listed on www.camping.fi and an English and German download is available. Motorhome Service Points are rare in Finland as a result it is common Finish practice to dispose of toilet waste and wastewater down earth closet toilets. These glorified holes in the ground are located throughout the country. Toilet chemicals are potentially harmful to the environment and as a responsible tourist you have two choices, either put up with the smell or fit a SOG extractor; see page 85 of Go Motorhoming and Campervanning for further details.
Water is available at fuel stations and should be obtained when filling up with fuel. These water points are uncommon in the north compared to the south. See Denmark for details about the Nordic Camper guidebook which features Finland. Offsite-Parking is tolerated due to the “Every Man’s Right”; see page 196 for a full explanation.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Finland
Only the main roads are sealed in northern Finland, though the compacted gravel roads are generally in good condition and can provide better Offsite-Parking opportunities. These gravel roads may not be obvious on your map but do generally go somewhere. Motorhomes or campervans must drive with dipped headlights during daylight hours. From October to May roads can be closed due to snow, so it is worth investigating road conditions before travelling. Visit www.tiehallinto.fi for information about Finish roads. Please read about elk and reindeer in the Norway section. Winter tyres are compulsory from 1st of December until the 28th of February. There are no toll roads and no LPG stations in Finland
France has something for everyone from lavender days in Provence, to awesome alpine activities, and Mediterranean meanders. During the Tour de France, it appears that every motorhome (Camping Car in French) in France is lining the mountain stages. There are annual race stages through the Pyrenees and Alps, but the route changes every year. You can check the stages online at www.letour.fr
Campsites, Motorhome Stoppovers and Offsite-Parking in France (free wild camping)
France has a mind boggling 10,400 campsites that range from tiny summer-only camping areas to large family fun parks. The star rating system applied to French campsites is inconsistent, therefore we recommend that you walk around the campsite and check the facilities before you book in. French campsites are generally well signed from the nearest town or village, so you will not need directions to find them. Pleasant municipally run campsites are found all over France. Often they are located in small villages and normally alongside a river if there is one. The pitch fees are low and the facilities basic, but the campsites normally have a comfortable ambiance. Small rural campsites, with less than 25 pitches, are identified as Aire Naturel in French. These small sites are often very basic but have a great appeal. Camping on farms is available through the Bienvenue à la ferme scheme, see www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com for details. Site entrances are clearly marked with the schemes yellow flower symbol. Les Castels is an organisation that promotes 40 campsites that are located in Chateaux grounds, see www.camping-castels.co.uk . A good selection of campsites is provided at www.campingfrance.com. Le Guide Officiel Camping Caravaning lists 9,857 French campsites, including all the municipal and small campsites. The guide is written in French, but has an English key and is easy to use. Vicarious Media stocks this guide and it is available to buy in large French supermarkets from April but may not be restocked once sold out.
France has 3,562 Motorhome Stopovers called ‘Aires de service’, or Aires for short. These are detailed in All the Aires France, published by Vicarious Media, this is the most comprehensive French Aires guide available, it is written in English and all 3,562 Aires listed have been inspected and photographed. Le Guide National des Aires de Services and Le Guide Official Aires de Services are produced by rival French motorhome magazines. The Aires are not inspected and few have photographs. The French language Aires guides are on sale in large French supermarkets from April but may not be restocked once sold out. France Passion members can stop overnight for free in their motorhomes at farms and vineyards all over France. Membership runs from Easter to Easter and is gained by buying the current guidebook. Host establishments vary considerably so it is a good idea to check out two or three before deciding where to stop. This scheme gives you a unique insight into French culture and the hosts are likely to show you how the goods are produced and grown, even if language prevents conversation. The biggest complaint about the scheme was that no GPS co-ordinates were provided making remote host sites difficult to find but since 2014 the guide now also features GPS. All the guides mentioned above are available from Vicarious Media. Offsite-Parking is possible in France as long as it is undertaken in accordance with the traffic and parking laws.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in France
Compared to the UK, France has twice the landmass, but has a similar number of residents. Consequently traffic is light outside of major urban areas and there would be even less if all the motorways were free. French toll motorways are correctly named Autoroute but are normally signed and referred to as péage, which translates to toll in English. These well-maintained motorways are quick and quiet but expensive and for that reason, most truck and domestic drivers use the non-toll main roads called route nationale. Driving on French Autoroutes is mind numbingly boring and it is hard to resist driving at high speeds, just to get it over with. Modern panel vans can easily drive at the 130kmh (80mph) upper speed limit and so can motorhomes if you are willing to accept the dramatically increased fuel consumption. Fuel at Autoroute service areas is 10-20 cents per litre more than from supermarkets. Just in case you are only reading this section, for safety reasons never park overnight in a motorhome or campervan at an Autoroute service or rest areas and maintain vigilance when you use them at any time of day. For further information about Autoroutes visit www.autoroutes.fr
The route nationales are often marked red on road maps. These routes take the majority of the traffic including trucks that maintain a speed of 90kmh (56mph) whenever possible. Overtaking or being overtaken by trucks is very dangerous and because there are insufficient passing places drivers take extraordinary risks. Speeding is normal on the open road, but the 50kph (31mph) speed limit is observed in areas of habitation. In order to reduce accidents and speeding more speed cameras are being installed, often they are not signed and may not be marked on maps. Mobile speed cameras and road checks are common at town and village boundaries. Bypasses are infrequent in France so the main routes pass through towns and villages. The majority of these, main road, built up areas have a depressing look due to the grey film from pollution that coats the buildings. When driving past shops, be prepared for other drivers making emergency bread stops as they realise they just passed a bakery. The nicest roads to drive are the lesser roads, marked yellow on Michelin France road atlases. These minor routes tend to accommodate local traffic only. They pass through the pretty landscapes and interesting villages, where you will be able to stop without disturbance.
The French driving style is consistent across the country. Mostly drivers are calm and unrushed in towns and villages, but they turn in speed freaks on open roads. Unfortunately, French drivers seem to lack forethought and appear to be unable to assess how their actions will affect other road users. Head-on collisions, on perfectly straight roads, are common in France. Drivers often maintain their speed even if there is an obstruction on the road or their vehicle is sufficiently wide to overhang the white line. On narrow lanes, be prepared to pull off the road, avoiding any ditches, to allow oncoming vehicles to pass.
Priorité à Droite (priority to the right) is a tourist’s worst nightmare. Thankfully it has been removed in most towns and villages, but unfortunately you are likely to find yourself in a situation where you have no idea who has priority. What makes this inconstancy so dangerous is that some minor roads have priority over the main route and the local drivers will join the main route at speed. You should avoid giving way to vehicles on the right when it is not appropriate as doing so will cause all sorts of confusion, instead drive as if priority to the right exists and look for road markings and signs that prove otherwise. Some villages and towns have ‘Priorité à Droite’ signs written at the boundaries, but normally a sign displaying a yellow diamond indicates that there is no priority to the right. The priority is cancelled as you exit the village and the signs display a yellow diamond struck through with a black diagonal line. Apparently, some villages are incapable of commitment and have removed all the road markings! At junctions where the priority is unclear, proceed confidently but keep an eye on every direction, French drivers are very cautious at junctions and will willingly give-way.
Roundabouts are a relatively new addition to French roads and help with priority issues. Most roundabouts flow the same as the UK, which may be indicated by signs saying 'Vous n'avez pas la priorité' or 'Cédez le passage'. Occasionally, in towns and villages, the priority on a roundabout will be to the right, this is of course ludicrous but no worse than putting traffic lights on roundabouts like they do in the UK.
Traffic lights go from red to green skipping amber when releasing traffic. Light changes tend to be a long time apart. Crossroads controlled by traffic lights may be left on flashing amber lights outside of rush hour, this indicates that you can proceed with caution; the problem is no one knows who has priority.
Roads are commonly marked with temporary ‘Route Barrée’ signs (road closed) during road works or when markets are blocking the road. A deviation route is not always provided. Traffic calming chicanes and road humps are very common in towns and villages and their design ensures that you have to drive slowly over or around them to prevent damaging your vehicle.
When driving along narrow mountain lanes it is French driving etiquette to give-way to traffic travelling uphill, this includes pulling over and reversing if necessary. The French highway-code requires the sounding of horns on twisting roads with reduced visibility. The Michelin France Tourist and Motoring Atlas highlights difficult or dangerous sections of roads. Less confident motorhome drivers should avoid these routes. High passes may be closed during winter and spring due to snow, drifts, or wind. Never drive along roads signed ‘Route Barrée’ or ‘Fermé’ or open gates used to close off mountain roads.
LPG autogas availability varies from region to region but is available across the whole country, especially on the Autoroutes. LPG autogas stations are listed in the rear of All the Aires France and can be found online at http://stations.gpl.online.fr/appli/index.php and www.jerouleaugpl.com/installateurs.php lists Total fuel stations with LPG.
Germany has it all; bountiful beer, amazing architecture, stunning scenery and toll free roads. History vultures will be flying high at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Bavaria has some pivotal pilgrimage sites including the Wieskirche and octagonal Chapel of Grace with its Black Madonna. Hopeless romantics may wish to start or end their scenic drive along ‘Romantische Strasse’ taking in elaborate country houses and castles along the way. The Romantic Road is Germany’s most popular tourist route and runs from Fussen in southern Bavaria, 340km north to Wurzburg. Wine not meander alongside the Mösel or Rhine and marvel at the seemingly endless vineyards. Motorhome tourists are well catered for and can stop at any of the frequent stellplätze along all three routes. Getting around by foot and bicycle could not be easier as the busses and ferries can transport you and your bike.
Germany is crisscrossed by 7000km of clearly signed cycle routes and there are plenty of marked walking trails as well. Germany’s ski resorts are a well-kept secret, having chosen to keep them low-key, family-friendly and affordable. Cash is king in Germany and very few places take credit or debit cards; consequently you will have to make regular visits to cash machines.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Germany (free wild camping)
Germany has 3500 campsites that cater for all desires and budgets. The German Tourist Board produced guidebook, 'Campsites and Motorhome sites in Germany', is written in English and lists around 1000 campsites. It can be downloaded from www.freegermanyguide.com. Motorhome Stopovers are called Wohnmobil stellplätze in Germany and there are over 2,000 to choose from. German motorhomers are happy to pay for electric; as a result plenty of stellplätze offer hook-up. Often there will be meter controlled hook-up bollards distributing electricity either by kilowatts used or duration, commonly €2 for 12 hours. German stellplätze are the best kept Motorhome Stopovers in Europe making Germany a joy to visit. There are several important road signs to watch out for. ‘Nur Fur’ means ‘only for’, ‘Nur Von’ means ‘only from’ whilst ‘Frei’ means ‘entry allowed’ it does not mean free. The publication Bord Atlas by Reise Mobil, lists 2162 Motorhome Stopovers and 1078 farm and vineyard stops located in Germany. This comes as a pack of two guidebooks and is available from German bookshops and newsagents. All the Aires Mountains lists Aires in Bavaria. All the above books are available from Vicarious Media Tel: 0131 208 3333. Offsite-parking is possible in Germany as long as it is undertaken in accordance with the traffic and parking laws.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Germany
Germany is a good driving country with only a few things to note. German driving tests are the most comprehensive in Europe and the driving style reflects this. Motorways ‘Autobahn’ across Germany are toll-free and frequently have only two lanes, despite this there will be very fast cars on them. Some motorways have no speed limit, except during bad weather conditions when speed limits are indicated on overhead gantries. Motorhomes or campervans over 3500kg are frequently restricted to the inside lane so look out for signs if you are affected. Do not ‘middle lane’ on German motorways because it is very dangerous, and you are likely to be chastised. Before overtaking take a good look in your mirrors, then if no speeding cars can be seen, indicate and overtake without delay. Motorway exits are signposted as ‘Ausfahrt’. Be aware that very short slip lanes followed by unbelievable steep bends are common. Cyclists often have priority at traffic lights, be vigilant when turning right in towns and be prepared to stop. Winter tyres are compulsory in Germany during snow or icy conditions and snow chains are not considered to be enough. Therefore it is advisable to have winter tyres fitted to your motorhome if you visit Germany between October and April. See www.bmv.de for detailed information about road rules.
Free roadside parking may be time bound and vehicles’ must display the arrival time on a time disc. Discs are available from newsagents for a few euros.
Low emission zones, called ‘Umwelt zones’ in Germany, are on the increase. Vehicles entering an Umwelt zone must display a colour-coded sticker (red, yellow, or green) that identifies the euro emission class of the vehicle. Non compliance can result in a €40 fine. The sticker must be stuck on the inside of the motorhome or campervan windscreen at the bottom right corner. Some towns exclude higher emission, red stickered vehicles and this will increasingly include yellow stickers. The sticker is valid for the entire life of the vehicle as long as the number plate is unchanged. Umwelt zones stickers cost €29.90 see www.umwelt-plakette.de. Stickers can also be issued at local Dekra vehicle registration offices for €5. www.dekra.de has a Dekra station search facility. Just type in a postcode or town name and the details of the nearest Dekra office is displayed. Red stickers are awarded to Euro 2 and Euro 1 diesel cars/motorhomes with retrofit particulate filters. Yellow stickers are awarded to Euro 3 and Euro 2 diesel cars/motorhomes with retrofit particulate filters. Green stickers are awarded to Euro 4/5 and Euro 3 diesel cars/motorhomes with retrofit particulate filters. Green stickers are also awarded to cars/motorhomes with petrol engines fitted with closed-loop catalytic converters, excluding some older models. Visit www.umwelt.nrw.de and click ‘English’ then ‘low emissions zones’ for a good explanation of how engines are given a euro rating.
LPG is widely available and a list of LPG autogas stations can be found at: www.autogastanken.de/de/tanken/autogastankstellen-karte.html. The ADAC Reise Atlas, 1:200,000, shows LPG stations and roads closed to cars towing caravans. The atlas is available from bookshops in Germany and is updated biannually.
Iceland is located 500 miles northwest of Scotland just south of the Arctic Circle. Despite its northerly location Iceland is kept warm by its volcanic action, thermal waters, and gushing geysers. Ferries depart from Denmark to Iceland via the Faroe Islands, making the journey an adventure in itself. Visit www.smyril-line.com for more details on ferry routes, timetables and costs.
Campsites, Motorhome Stoppovers and Offsite-Parking in Iceland (free wild camping)
Iceland has 68 campsites, most of which are open from June to mid September. A good selection of campsites are listed on www.icetourist.is. There are no motorhome stopovers and the Iceland Tourist Board state on their website ‘Camping outside designated areas is not allowed.’
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Iceland
Iceland lends itself to driving holidays, although fuel is expensive. Some roads are surfaced with loose gravel and need to be driven at slow speeds with care. Dipped headlights are compulsory during daylight hours. Weather can change quickly in Iceland making roads impassable, especially during winter. Winter tyres are compulsory from November to April. www.vegagerdin.is details road conditions. www.safetravel.is details information on safe driving practices. There is no LPG autogas in Iceland.
The Emerald Isle is a beautifully lush country, steeped in history and has rich culture. Ireland has a maritime climate so you should expect rain showers whenever you visit. You can always escape the weather by popping down the pub to warm your cockles by the peat fire. Information on heritage sites can be found at www.heritageisland.com. Ferries operate between Ireland and Wales, Scotland, England and France.
Campsites, Motorhome Stoppovers and Offsite-Parking in Ireland (free wild camping)
Ireland has nearly 100 campsites. The Irish Caravan & Camping Council produce a booklet entitled Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Guide Ireland, available from the Irish tourist board and Vicarious Media. The 91 campsites are marked on maps and full details are provided. 91 campsites are listed on Camping Ireland. Ireland currently has one motorhome stopover though more are planned. Pubs, restaurants and marinas may allow motorhomers to stop overnight in exchange for patronage. Safe Nights Ireland has a list of places where motorhomes can park overnight for €10. Membership is €15 per annum.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Ireland
Speed limits and distances are shown in kilometres. Ireland’s main roads have been improved thanks to EU grants. There are plenty of country lanes to discover, but they are often dead-ends without signs to identify so. The best way to judge these roads is by the grass growing the middle, as soon as you see any look for somewhere to turn around. Barrier free tolling operates on the M50 around Dublin, your number plate will be recorded when you pass through the toll and the fee must be paid by 8pm the following day. Payment can be made at any of the ‘payzone’ outlets. Further information can be found at www.eflow.ie LPG autogas is available at about 80 fuel stations see http://www.ilpga.ie/autogas-outlets.php for details.
Rome was not built in a day and Italy has so much to see and do it is hard to know where to start. For centuries Italy has been a firm favourite with grand tourers and if we only had one month to travel Europe we would spend three weeks in Italy. Adventurous winter Sun-Seekers should head south to Sicily and drive around Etna, the largest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. Visit www.funiviaetna.com for more information about visiting Etna.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Italy (free wild camping)
Italian campsites are very expensive and you are unlikely to feel that you are getting good value for money. Poor facilities, and unlevel pitches are common and you are advised to visit campsites that are in one of the discount schemes. A database of Italian campsites is published online at www.camping.it Look out for ‘Agri Tourismo’ signs as you travel as you will often be able to park overnight for a few euros.
Italy has approximately 1000 Motorhome Stopovers called ‘Aree di Sosta’ translating to area to stop. Motorhome Stopovers near tourist attractions are more like motorhome campsites; elsewhere they are located in municipal car parks and often have simple custom built Service Points. There are several guidebooks available. The Italian motorhome club produces an Annual guide called Italian Aree di Sosta CamperLife, which lists 2711 stopovers, and agri tourisimo sites. There appears to be a large number of car parking areas in the guide that have no signs to indicate that the area has official motorhome parking. All the Aires Mountains published by Vicarious Media details campsites and Motorhome Stopovers in the mountains of northern Italy and in Sicily. Guides are available at www.vicarious-shop.com. Details of Area di Sostas can be found online at www.camperonline.it. Offsite-Parking is possible in Italy as long as the traffic and parking laws are complied with. Italians have an interesting take on what remote car parks should be used for so bear this in mind when choosing overnight parking. Thankfully the lovers tend to be quiet but local youths will party late on Friday and Saturday nights. This can be a little alarming to start with but you soon learn to sleep through it.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Italy
Whilst travelling south down Italy you will notice that road conditions continually deteriorate the further away from the industrial north you get. Motorways tend to have tolls, see www.autostrade.it, but the minor roads that run parallel are free and are often more interesting and challenging. Roads have been renumbered over the past few years, so maps and addresses may be out of date. Cycling clubs are common and pelotons snake their way along minor roads on Sundays. Road drainage appears uncommon in southern Italy, so avoid driving during rain. Road signage can be difficult to interpret so take some time to get it right. For example a straight on sign often looks to be indicating left or right. If you need to stop and think about which way to go putting your hazard lights on will be enough to encourage people to drive around you. The south of Italy is less busy than the north but Italians love their cars so there is always some traffic. Appalling congestion occurs after supper, because everybody with a car cruises around town so try to avoid driving between 7-10pm. Perhaps the recession will encourage them to promenade instead.
Some ski resorts can only be accessed by crossing high mountain passes that are prone to blockages after light snow or wind. All tourist offices receive daily updates about mountain pass conditions and a three-day snow forecast. Winter tyres are required between October 15th and April 15th.
There are rumours that the Italians are mad drivers with one hand always on the horn. OK, they are expressive with their horns, but it is an unofficial language, that is easy to learn. One short beep from a following car is a warning that they are overtaking or simply ‘I am here’. Two beeps means ‘ciao’ and they are generally saying hello to someone they know. A progression of beeps or one long beeeeeeeep usually means you or something is in the way; either they have nearly driven into you or there is a parked car blocking the route. Italians drive at two speeds, fast and slow. People driving slowly are happy to drift along and are not concerned by confused tourists. People in a hurry will drive with full beam lights on and will flash manically; as a general rule everyone gets out of their way.
Parking is an Italian sport and any space is fair game, even if it blocks the road. When confronted by a blocked road it is standard practice to give a long horn blast, shopkeepers and passersby soon inspect the situation then summon the owner to move the vehicle. Tailgating is something you have to accept.
If you have a bike rack or anything that protrudes from the rear of your motorhome, ensure you identify it with a hazard warning sign. These are 50cm square, with red and white reflective stripes. Many cities do not allow tourist traffic through the historic centre, so park on the outskirts and use public transport to get in. LPG autogas is widely available. Fuel stations may discount fuel prices at weekends, and self service pumps are marked ‘Fai Dante’ and are often five per cent cheaper.
(The Grand Duchy of)
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to use its full and correct title, is approximately 75km tall from north to south and 50km wide from east to west, so be careful not to drive right through by accident. One or two days will give a good overview and enough time to visit Luxembourg City as well. Northern Grand Duchy has plenty of forested areas with marked walking trails, see www.hiking-in-luxembourg.co.uk .The Mosel Valley forms the eastern border with Germany. Adjacent to the river is a road and cycle path both providing a good view of the vine covered slopes, visit www.vins-cremants.lu for more information about the wine.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking Luxembourg (free wild camping)
There is an amazing 80 campsites in Luxembourg, which equates to one in every 32km² and three of the 80 are naturist campsites. See www.camping.lu for details. There are a few Motorhome Stopovers but most motorhome facilities are attached to campsites though pitch fees are reduced. Some campsites operate reduced fee Quick Stop camping on a parking area outside the campsite, parking is restricted to evenings only, normally from 5pm until 10am. Full details of the Motorhome Stopovers can be found in All the Aires Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg available from www.vicarious-shop.com. Offsite-Parking is not allowed or tolerated, though there are plenty of suitable lay-bys.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Luxembourg
The roads are good and toll free. All the motorways around Luxembourg City can get busy during rush hour. Several motorways are currently being extended or improved. Fuel prices are fixed throughout the country and fuel stations close to borders often sell tobacco and other goods that offer savings to their neighbours. LPG autogas is available at some fuel stations.
Malta is located 60 miles south of Sicily. You do not need a car to get around Malta because it is only 14 miles long and 8 miles wide. Malta has an enviable comfortable year-round climate, is packed with interesting sites and has plenty of quiet beaches. Motorhoming on Malta is not recommended although a ferry can be taken from Sicily to Malta.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Malta (free wild camping)
The main campsite is adjacent to a nice bay at Mellieha in the far north of the island, www.maltacampsite.com Tel 00356 21521105. The campsite charges around €15 for a motorhome in winter including electricity. There is also a scout camp, http://campsite.scoutkeeper.net, which allows the public to stay. There are no Motorhome Stopovers on the island and Offsite-Parking is discouraged and difficult as there is a lack of suitable car parks. Water is in short supply on the island.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Malta
The roads are narrow, dusty, potholed and congested (think central Naples). The Maltese are polite but reckless drivers, un-dented cars are the exception. The Maltese drive on the left (unless the right side has better shade). LPG autogas is not available.
The Netherlands (Holland)
Water dominates the history and the landscape of The Netherlands. Today dykes, canals and rivers crisscross all over the country. Between 1927 and 1932, a 30.5km long dyke called Afsluitdijk (the Barrier Dyke) was built, turning the Zuiderzee into the Ijsselmeer, a freshwater lake. The bulb fields, especially the tulips, are a popular tourist destination. The season lasts from the end of March until the first week of May, weather depending. The best-known bulb fields are located behind the North Sea sand dunes, between the cities of Leiden and Den Helder. Flower Route cycle maps are available from tourist information offices.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in The Netherlands (Holland) (free wild camping)
There are a wide range of campsites available to suit all budgets and desires. The Camping Card ACSI details over 370 off season discount campsites. Small campsites, known as ‘Mini Camping’, are detailed in Kamperen op het Platteland which is available from www.vekabo.com, and bookshops in Holland, but is only in Dutch. SVR, www.svr.nl, is another camping association and members receive a map detailing SVR sites, there is no handbook. Motorhome facilities are often inadequate, under whelming and expensive, which is surprising when you consider how many Dutch motorhomes you see in other countries, perhaps that is the reason why! Many of the Motorhome Stopovers only have two parking bays, and no facilities. Service Points are predominantly at marinas and a fee is charged, these are generally waist height sinks for emptying cassette toilets only. Grey water drains and fresh water supplies are rare. Charges at marinas are sometimes more than campsite fees. Motorhome Stopovers are detailed in All the Aires Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, Bord Atlas and CamperStop Europe. All books and the ACSI Camping Card are available from www.vicarious-shop.com. Offsite-parking is not tolerated in The Netherlands nor is it in practice.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in The Netherlands (Holland)
The roads are generally in good condition and toll free but do suffer from strong winds. Being a densely populated country, like Britain, The Netherlands also suffers morning and evening rush hours. The driving style is generally good and drivers are decisive when joining traffic or overtaking. It would also seem that everybody gets on their bike in the Netherlands and cycle routes are everywhere. Usually bikes do not share the road, making cycling safe and easy. Thousands of bikes are stolen in the Netherlands every year so always lock up your bike.
Norway is without any doubt the most interesting Scandinavian country to visit. This is simply due to the ever-changing landscape that you drive through. It seems that every 30 minutes you look out over new scenery. Norway is not a cheap country to visit, so stock your cupboards in advance, making sure you check you do not break any of the import regulations, listed below. Motorhome longer than 6 metres or weighing more than 3500kg are charged at least double for tolls and ferries, compared to motorhomes that are less than 3500kg and less than 6 metres.
Norway is not part of the EU and the import regulations are as follows: You must be 18 years or older to take in drink up to 22% alcohol per volume and 20 or over to take in liquor over 22% alcohol per volume. The limits are:
• 1 litre of beverages with more than 22% up to and including 60% alcohol per volume as well as 1.5 litres with more than 2.5% up to and including 22% alcohol per volume.
• Or 3 litres with more than 2.5% up to and including 22% alcohol per volume and 2 litres of beer with more than 2.5 % up to and including 4.7 % alcohol per volume.
• Or 5 litres of other beverages with more than 2.5 % up to and including 4.7 % alcohol per volume. This means that you can take 5 litres of beer provided you do not have any other alcoholic beverages.
• Tobacco (minimum age 18): The maximum limit is 200 cigarettes or 250g of other tobacco products and 200 cigarette papers.
• Meat, meat products, milk and milk products: You can take in meat, meat products, milk, cheese and foodstuffs containing them totalling 10 kilos. These products must originate from European Economic Area countries. You are not allowed to take potatoes, dog or cat food into Norway.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Norway (free wild camping)
The Norwegian Tourist Board would prefer you to use one of the 1000 campsites, which vary from large commercial sites to plenty of smaller sites, see www.camping.no/en/campingguide-i-pdf/ for a downloadable campsite guide. Due to the 1957 Outdoor Recreation Act the “right of public access”, Offsite-Parking is tolerated as long as you park at least 150m away from a dwelling or cabin, do not drive off road, do not camp on farmland and stop no longer than 48 hours. Finding suitable Offsite-Parking places south of Trondheim is difficult due to the Fjord land geography, farmland, and higher population. Motorhome Service-Points are almost exclusively located at fuel stations but are distributed throughout the country. Motorhome Stopovers are listed in Nordic Camper Guide sold by Vicarious Media. Some of the fuel stations and most campsites will operate septic tanks so we recommend that you fit a SOG extractor to avoid the need for toilet chemicals. Water is sometimes available at fuel stations and should be obtained when filling up with fuel.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Norway
Norway is a popular motorhome destination even though it is not really possible to have a budget driving holiday because it is such a long way from the bottom to the top and back. Most motorists explain how they enjoy the challenge of the drive and it is the drive that makes the holiday. Dual carriageways are rare. Only the main roads are tarmac and they are no wider than they need to be. The northern road frequently passes under the adjacent railway track and as it does it becomes single vehicle width. Compacted gravel roads provide access to remote communities and dwellings. These gravel roads may not be obvious on your map but do generally go somewhere and are kept in good condition and are likely to provide better motorhome or campervan Offsite-Parking opportunities. Snow can block roads in the north as late as May, so don’t arrive within the Arctic Circle until June and aim to leave no later than September. Winter tyres are mandatory when the government releases the exact dates but approximately 1st of November until the 15th of April. Dipped headlights are obligatory during daylight hours. More road information is available at www.vegvesen.no.
Ferries are necessary to cross the fjords as you drive the coast road. Large towns, like Burgen, Trondheim and Oslo, have toll ring roads (the main road), which are unavoidable. There are two options for paying Norwegan tolls. Either you can register a credit card with AutoPASS and drive through the AutoPASS lanes. Alternatively don’t register your credit card and pay for each toll at the payment booth, if there is no payment booth then drive through an AutoPASS lane and an invoice will be sent to your home address. If you drive through an AutoPASS lane when a manual pay booth is available you will be sent a fine. More information is available at www.autopass.no. Norway is an expensive country and fuel is about 10 per cent more than the UK and motorhomes over 6 metres will be charged twice as much for ferries and tolls.
If you see elk whilst driving, slow down or stop if it is safe to do so. These are wild unpredictable animals the size of a medium horse so collision is disastrous for both parties. Reindeer are semi domesticated livestock herded by Sami people who indicate reindeer crossing points or grazing areas with plastic bags tied to polls and bushes. Reindeer like to stand in the middle of the road and sounding your horn will not get a reaction. Reindeer on the side are a significant hazard as they are prone to walking onto the road despite oncoming traffic. Should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision with a large animal such as a deer or elk, even if it runs away, you must always contact the police to report the incident. If the animal runs back into the woods you must indicate the place with a plastic bag. If the animal is lying on the road put out warning triangles.
Fuel is expensive in Norway, so keep an eye on the prices and fill up when it is cheaper regardless of whether your tank is empty. Check fuel prices on Sunday evenings, as they may be reduced. LPG is available through Norway and a list of LPG stations is available on www.gjelstenli.no, http://lpgnorge.no
Portugal has a relaxed pace of life that follows the seasons. Agricultural vehicles of all types are used as daily transport, testament to the family farm lifestyle so prevalent in the interior. During winter the Atlantic coast is often windier and wetter than the more sheltered Algarve; unsurprisingly this is where most motorhomes congregate. If you drive north, away from the Sun-Seekers, you will find the wetlands around Aveiro. This area provides shellfish for birds and fishermen alike who navigate the creeks in traditional colourful fishing boats.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Portugal (free wild camping)
Portugal has approximately 250 campsites, many of which are open all year. 139 campsites are listed on www.campingportugal.org and 160 are listed on www.visitportugal.com There are 135 Motorhome Stopovers listed in All the Aires Spain and Portugal, most of which are located inland. Offsite-Parking is possible but ‘No Motorhome’ signs are common along the coastline.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Portugal
Compared to Spanish roads Portuguese roads are poor and country lanes are very bumpy. Main roads are busy and the surface is often deteriorated and potholed. The local driving style is calm, and the local roads are quiet.
Portuguese toll roads have a 12 hour time restriction. As always the advice, for safety reasons, is do not park overnight at motorway rest areas in your motorhome or campervan, but in this circumstance time is also against you. Electronic tolls, signed ‘Lanco Com Portagem’, apply on many of the former free stretches of motorway. This is an automated system and there are no toll-booths. Instead an electronic device has to be leased or a three day ticket can be purchased. These are available from motorway service stations or post offices and must be acquired before you use the motorways. Visit http://portagens.ctt.pt or see the tourist board website.
LPG is available in Portugal at many fuel stations, 77 LPG filling points are listed in All the Aires Spain and Portugal. Fuel is 10 cents more per litre in Portugal than it is in Spain.
Southern coastal Spain provides the warmest winter temperatures in mainland Europe, thus motorhome and caravan users migrate there from all over the continent. The warm winters make it viable to grow a wide selection of fruits, vegetables and salad crops. The evidence of this intensive production is clearly visible as thousands of hectares of southern Spain are cloaked in plastic. Spain has more than sun, sea, sand and plastic, drive inland and a different, quieter Spain awaits you.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Spain (free wild camping)
Spain has 1200 campsites. Along the south eastern coast there are many large campsites that are suitable for long term winter holidays. Rallies are held at these campsites by motorhome and caravan clubs from all over Europe. The publication Guia Camping, details campsites in Spain and Portugal and has a searchable database of campsites on the supporting website, www.guiacampingfecc.com.
There are 321 Motorhome Stopovers in Spain. Almost half are located above Portugal, between the Atlantic coast and San Sebastian. Most of these stopovers are located inland, and are underused despite being free and open all year. Full details are provided in All the Aires Spain and Portugal available from www.vicarious-shop.com. If you dream of driving slowly down the Spanish Mediterranean coast and stopping wherever takes your fancy, you are going to be disappointed. Offsite-Parking is nearly non-existent as more and more motorhome exclusion signs are erected, and you are unlikely to find a free Motorhome Stopover near the sea.
Unfortunately there is an element of crime targeted at tourists. Many campsites display warning and disclaimer notices about leaving belongings outside and valuables on display when you are away from your pitch. Spanish highway police on the AP7 confirmed that break-ins both on trucks and motorhomes were a real problem at motorway rest areas, but rarely occur off the motorway network. Do not stop overnight at motorway service or rest areas and be vigilant at all times when visiting them.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Spain
In general, Spanish roads are the best in Europe having recently been subject to an extensive EU road improvement programme. Although this has made Spanish roads easy and pleasant to drive on, it can cause navigation issues for both humans and satellite machines. Ensure you have up-to-date mapping with you. Away from major cities the local driving style is generally non-aggressive, cautious, and very tolerant. Toll roads along the east coast connect the popular coastal resorts. Reasonable free roads follow the same route. This coast is very busy and is virtually all built up. Driving the central route up or down is quiet, beautiful and toll free.
Speed detectors linked to traffic lights are common at town boundaries. The traffic lights stop speeding vehicles before they enter the built up areas. Spanish road planners have adopted a junction which would be a roundabout elsewhere in Europe. To prevent vehicles turning left across the traffic a right hand slipway sweeps away and back at right angles to the road. Drivers then have to give way to traffic on both carriageways. This type junction is likely to be traffic light controlled in towns. These junctions take a little while to get used to!
Sweden is often seen as the ‘back door to Norway’ due to its flat, toll free roads that cut through seemingly endless pine trees. The large lakes of Vanern and Vattern make an ideal stop for a few days, whilst the capital, Stockholm, should not be missed. Stockholm has a congestion charge, but this only applies to Swedish registered vehicles. Southern and Central Sweden has plenty of speed cameras.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Sweden (free wild camping)
Unlike the rest of Europe, to use the 1200 campsites in Sweden a Camping Card Scandinavia may be required. This card is not required in the rest of Scandinavia if you have a Camping Card International. Until recently Swedish campsites did not accept the CCI and engaging the campsite staff in a lengthy discussion was pointless, however this is beginning to change with some campsites accepting the CCI. The Camping Card Scandinavia is available in advance from www.camping.se or from campsites in Sweden, the validation stamp at your first campsite costs 140 SEK. Some camp-sites offer a Quick Stop facility where campsite facilities can be used from 9pm to 9am, ideal for those touring the country wishing to reduce campsite costs. Some campsites are open all year; www.camping.se has a searchable campsite database.
Short stay parking is provided at the ‘Rastplats’ Lay-bys on all the major roads in Sweden, and although overnight parking is not encouraged, in reality motorhomes frequently stay overnight. If you do use these stops do not stay longer than 18 hours. Sweden has low crime rates and overnight parking is probably less risky than on main routes in other parts of Europe, but vigilance and additional security should always be applied. Some Rastplats on major routes provide toilet-emptying points. These consist of parking areas and toilet blocks with a Latrin (Latrine). The latrines are a voluntary addition, so not all lay-bys have them. The Rastplats clearly sign different areas for cars, lorries and caravans (motorhomes). Toilet blocks have one door marked ‘Latrin’. Inside you will find a toilet emptying point. Some Rastplats have manufactured service points. Caravans can and do use these stops. Details of the Rastplats can be found on the Rastplatskartan, a road map, produced by Vagverket. This is available from the major tourist offices in Sweden. Water is not available at Rastplats. Water tanks should be replenished when visiting fuel stations for fuelling up. Water is available in heated cupboards and there are 230 Shell stations with water points. For further information on stopovers in Sweden see Nordic Camper Guide.
Offsite-Parking is possible but curiously Swedish tourist information recommends campsite use for safety and security, but hundreds of unsecured walking huts are provided across the country. Our experience is, along with Norway, that we felt safer here than in any other country. Offsite-Parking is tolerated due to the “Every Man’s Right”.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Sweden
In Northern Sweden only the main roads are tarmac, though the compacted gravel roads are generally in good condition and can provide better stopping opportunities. These gravel roads may not be obvious on your map but do generally go somewhere. Dipped headlights are obligatory whilst driving even in daylight. Sweden has no toll roads. From October to May roads can be closed due to snow. Snow chains or winter tyres are compulsory in some areas, so it is worth investigating road conditions before travelling.
The main roads in Sweden are good, though there is little dual carriageway in the north but areas are provided for overtaking. Minor roads can be extremely bumpy and pot holed. At traffic lights the Swedes tend to leave a car’s length between each vehicle, which allows them to pull away all together. Driving through Sweden is regarded as the quick way to return in your motorhome or campervan from Nordkapp or North Norway. With few hills and no tolls it is both quick and cheap but it is also regarded as boring as there is not much to see.
If you intend to pass another vehicle and if you think the driver is not aware of your presence, flash your headlights. If the other driver sees that the road ahead is clear they will acknowledge your signal by engaging their right indicator. If you're driving slowly you will be expected to move over onto the hard shoulder while the other motorist passes, the hard shoulders in Sweden are extra wide to accommodate this practice. Do not use the shoulder as if it were another lane. Swedish drivers are very keen to follow motorhomes for long distances of straight road before initiating an overtake before a bend.
If you see elk whilst driving, slow down or stop if it is safe to do so. These are wild unpredictable animals the size of a medium horse so collision is disastrous for both parties. Reindeer are semi domesticated, and the Sami also use plastic bags at the side of the road to indicate reindeer crossing points or grazing areas. Reindeer like to stand in the middle of the road to escape the flies and enjoy sun warmed tarmac. Reindeer on the side of the road require extreme care, sounding your horn will not get a reaction. Should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision with a large animal such as a deer or elk, even if it runs away, you must always contact the police to report the incident. If the animal runs back into the woods you must indicate the place with a plastic bag. If the animal is lying on the road put out warning triangles.
LPG is not widely available but a list of 30 is available at www.gjelstenli.no
Switzerland is not high up on the destinations list for most campers but there is more to Switzerland than clocks, chocolate and cheese. There are well-known, excellent ski resorts, which in summer make ideal destinations for outdoor enthusiasts and 20,000km of non-motorised routes for walking, cycling and canoeing are accessible, see www.switzerlandmobility.ch
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Switzerland (free wild camping)
There are 350 campsites in Switzerland. www.swisscamps.ch has a brochure of the campsites and a searchable campsite database. There are around 20 Motorhome Stopovers, known as Stellplatze. Service Points are often located outside TCS campsites, there are 27 TCS campsites and http://www.tcs.ch/de/reisen-camping/camping/campingplaetze.php shows them marked on a map. Electricity connection at the campsite or Stellplatze may have a special Swiss plug socket. Adaptor plugs are available from camping shops or can be borrowed at campsites, but will contain a 10amp fuse so you can only draw 10amps from a 16amp supply. Many Swiss motorway service stations have dedicated motorhome parking, service points, and free 16amp electric. It appears that motorhomes are permitted to park at service stations from 4 to 15 hours, always check the sign. These parking areas range from huge motorway service areas to small mountain service stations with fantastic views. It is not uncommon to see 4 - 5 Swiss motorhomes park overnight and be connected to the power. Swiss crime rates are low but Vicarious Media does not recommend stopping overnight on motorways because we receive a few reports each year of vehicle burglary. That said we have never had a report of or heard a rumour of a burglary on a Swiss motorway. If you do stop at a motorway service station or lay-by, be cautious and vigilant; lock your vehicle, lock away valuables and set alarms. There are 34 entries for Switzerland in All the Aires Mountains. Offsite-Parking is possible but dependant on local laws.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Switzerland
The Alps dominate the bottom third of Switzerland and many routes have mountain passes. In winter, spring and autumn sudden snow showers are common, so abide by the law and carry snow chains. It is advisable to check weather forecasts and check with the local police or Tourist Office to confirm that any passes you intend to take are open. When travelling on any mountain road give way to yellow PostBuses, it’s the law! Some mountain passes have car-train tunnels (a similar system to the channel tunnel) where you turn up, pay a fee, and drive onto the train that transports you through the tunnel. This can save considerable time, but take care when driving on and off the train.
Swiss motorways are excellent and you really need to use them to get around. All motorhomes and campervans weighing less than 3.5t are charged to use Swiss motorways. Proof of payment comes in the form of a sticker called a vignette, which you attach to the windscreen. Take care when removing the sticker from its backing as the sticker is cut into circular strips to make it impossible to remove from the windscreen intact, you do not want to invalidate it before you have used it! Motorhomes and campervans under 3.5t are charged SF40/€34 for 14 months from 1st December. If you are towing a trailer/caravan under 3.5t, you need two vignettes, one for the tow vehicle and one for the trailer. Vignettes can be purchased in advance at www.myswitzerland.com or can be purchased in euro’s or Swiss Francs at the border. Stickers are checked at motorway exits. Further details and a map of the toll roads is available at www.vignette.ch
All motorhomes and campervans over 3.5t have to pay heavy vehicle tax for every day the vehicle is in Switzerland. Motorhome and heavy car tax is SF3.25 per day, and a minimum of SF25/7 days has to be purchased. Border staff will issue a receipt as proof of purchase, and this will be checked when you leave Switzerland. If you intend to stay longer than 18 days, a one-month pass is more economical. If you intend to pass through Switzerland, you can buy a flexible 10 day pass valid for one year. If you are towing a trailer/caravan less than 3.5t, you need a vignette for the trailer. Fifth wheel caravan combination: when both vehicles weigh over 3.5t each, only one heavy vehicle pass is required. If the tow vehicle is under 3.5t and the caravan is over 3.5t then only one heavy vehicle pass is required. If the tow vehicle is over 3.5t and the caravan is under 3.5t, a heavy vehicle pass and a vignette is required. If both vehicles are under 3.5t each then two vignettes are required. Further details and a map of the toll roads is available at www.vignette.ch, email: enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org
There are around 18 LPG stations in Switzerland, All the Aires Mountains lists 6.
Switzerland’s western border adjoins Lichtenstein and this 24km long country shares many links with Switzerland, including its currency, the Swiss Franc (SF). Lichtenstein is independent, with its own monarchy and parliament but it does not have an army. There is one campsite and a private Stellplatze listed on Lichtenstein’s tourist board website, www.tourismus.li
The United Kingdom
The UK is probably the most diverse country in Europe and there is so much to see and do that a lifetime of weekends and holidays can easily be filled. Visiting country houses and historical industrial buildings will give you a good understanding of how the people that shaped the UKs countryside and industry lived. The National Trust, www.thenationaltrust.org.uk, and English Heritage, www.english-heritage.org.uk, members have free access to hundreds of historic buildings and places of interest. You can join at one of the more popular sites so there is no need to take out membership in advance. National Trust members also have access to buildings owned by the National Trust for Scotland www.nts.org.uk The National Trust offers free entry to members of affiliated overseas National Trusts, so bring your membership card if you are a member in: Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Jersey, Guernsey, or the Isle of Man.
Camping is practical all year in England and Wales because of the mild climate, but it is best to tour from April to October to avoid dreary winter weather and cold spells. Cornwall, Ireland and Wales are the wettest regions of the UK. Scotland is a bit too cold for winter camping so plan a summer visit. Be warned mosquitoes are a problem.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in the United Kingdom (free wild camping)
There are 2400 campsites in the UK and a wide network of independent campsites are detailed in numerous campsite guides available from www.vicarious-shop.com There are several UK campsite directories online. Unfortunately the UK does not have a network of Motorhome Stopovers but does have about 4000 mini camping farm sites, with pitch fees as low as £3.50 per night. The easy way to gain access to these mini camping sites is to join one of the camping clubs. The Camping and Caravanning Club allows caravans, motorhomes and tents on its campsites. See www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk Tel: 02476 475442. Membership gives access to 110 club sites and 1500 certified sites (mini camping). Many of the larger club sites are open to non member visitors, who pay full rate. Annual membership costs from £37 and temporary three-month membership is available to foreign nationals for £10. Membership can be taken out at club sites. Members of The Caravan Club can camp in caravans and motorhomes at 200 club sites, including Crystal Palace in London and 2500 small certified locations (mini camping). Annual membership costs from £44 and it is possible to join at any club site. See www.caravanclub.co.uk Tel: 01342 318813.
Certified Locations/Sites (CL/CS) are restricted to a maximum of five member caravans/motorhomes per night. These sites are located at farms, pubs and in people’s gardens so you are able to experience true UK culture in otherwise inaccessible areas. Every site offers water and a waste disposal facility, some offer electricity and showers. Information about these locations is provided in the clubs handbooks and on their websites.
There are so few official Motorhome Stopovers in the UK that you could publish information about them on two sides of A4 paper. Visit www.UKmotorhomes.net for a current list. 500 pubs allow members of the UK scheme called ‘Motorhome Stopovers’ to stop for the night. Membership costs £30 per year and members have access to the pub database on www.motorhomestopover.co.uk. There is another UK scheme called Brit Stops that emulates France Passion, see www.britstops.com for details. Although by-laws generally exclude Offsite-Parking, in practice it is possible to Offsite-Park in the UK if you stop late and leave early. Avoid the obvious tourist hot spots and the coast. Pub landlords and farmers will often let you stop for the night if asked nicely. Some Scottish Islands allow Offsite-Parking, but check with the local tourist office first.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Britain
Britain has some of the busiest roads in Europe and most towns in the Southeast and the Midlands experience rush hour congestion from 8.00-9.00hrs and 17.00-18.00hrs. Rural counties experience less congestion. The M25 around London can come to a standstill at any time as can the free M6 near Birmingham. Despite local opinion, the roads in the UK are good and most are free to use, apart from toll bridges crossing major estuaries and the M6 toll road around Birmingham. There are about 2000 low bridges in the UK. Bridge heights and road widths are often shown only in feet and inches not metres. Make sure you convert your motorhome or campervan measurements into feet and keep it on display in the cab. Truckers’ maps, showing bridge heights, are available at service stations. Country lanes are narrow and often two-way. Roads in the West Country and Wales can be very narrow and busy during the tourist season; be prepared to use the pull-ins provided or reverse if necessary.
London has both a low emission zone, www.tfl.gov.uk/lezlondon, and a congestion charge, www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/congestioncharging. There is no need to drive through London and it is easier, and probably cheaper, to stay overnight outside of the zones and use public transport to get in.
LPG is available in the UK, but not from every fuel station. A map of LPG stations is displayed at www.drivelpg.co.uk/map/index.php.
The Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man
There are three Crown Dependency islands: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, none of these islands are part of the EU. Jersey and Guernsey are located off the coast of France. Motorhomes are accepted as long as campsites are pre-booked. Sea crossings must be made with Condor Ferries and motorhomes cannot exceed 7m in length. More information can be found at www.visitguernsey.com and www.jersey.com. The Isle of Man is located between Ireland and Wales and is accessible via ferry from both the UK and Ireland. There are 19 campsites listed on the tourist board website www.visitisleofman.com.